Jamón serrano is a dry-cured Spanish ham, which is generally served raw in thin slices, similar to the Italian prosciutto.
The fresh hams are trimmed and cleaned, then stacked and covered with salt for about two weeks in order to draw off excess moisture and preserve the meat from spoiling. The salt is then washed off and the hams are hung to dry for about six months. Finally, the hams are hung in a cool, dry place for six to eighteen months, depending on the climate, as well as the size and type of ham being cured. The drying sheds are usually built at higher elevations, which is why the ham is called mountain ham.
The highest quality, pata negra which only accounts for about five percent of the total production, however, is made from black Iberian pigs, range fed and fattened on acorns in the cork oak groves along the southern half of the border between Spain and Portugal. The large majority of hams in the marketplace are derived from white pigs.